Egan Bernal’s Tour de France defense collapses in mountains

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Ineos’ reign is over at the Tour de France.

Defending champion Egan Bernal lost seven minutes to leader Primoz Roglic and dropped from third place to 13th in the overall standings in Sunday’s 15th stage.

“I was not going well from the first climb to be honest, I was almost dropped there,” Bernal said of the first of three major ascents that came 61 miles into the 108-mile day. “It’s difficult to say how I felt, the feeling was that I was empty — I had no power.

“The other riders have been stronger than me and we have to accept that.”

Bernal’s plummet while scaling the Grand Colombier effectively ensures an Ineos Grenadiers rider will not win the Tour de France for the first time since 2014, going back to when the outfit was sponsored by Sky and led by Chris Froome.

Ineos chose not to bring Froome nor 2018 Tour champion Geraint Thomas to this year’s Tour, putting their eggs in the Bernal basket. Froome, a four-time Tour winner, announced before he was left off the squad that he is moving to another team after this season.

The new story: Slovenia is poised to produce its first Tour de France podium finishers and champion.

Countrymen Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar remain one-two in the overall standings after they finished one-two on Sunday, with Pogacar getting the stage win. They finished in the same time after the last 11-mile climb, but Pogacar gained four seconds in bonus to move 40 seconds behind Roglic.

TOUR DE FRANCE: Standings | TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage

“For the moment, [Roglic] seems unstoppable,” said Pogacar, a 21-year-old who finished third at the 2019 Vuelta a Espana, when Roglic became the first Slovenian to win a Grand Tour. “Today, Bernal cracked. Maybe one day I can crack. Or Roglic. You never know in a three-week stage race, especially Tour. So it’s still opportunities.”

Roglic, a former world junior champion ski jumper, and his Jumbo-Visma team looked as dominant as ever on Sunday. They had five riders at the front when Bernal cracked, including rising American Sepp Kuss.

“Jumbo did a really hard pace today,” said Pogacar, who rides for UAE Team Emirates. “Some riders paid for it.”

Roglic and Bernal began the Tour two weeks ago as co-favorites. Roglic, who took up cycling eight years ago at age 22, didn’t dwell on Bernal, who went from 59 seconds back to 8:25 behind.

“I don’t really bother so much with others, who is doing well or bad,” Roglic said. “We have to keep the focus on ourselves.”

Colombian Rigoberto Uran inherited third place, 1:34 behind Roglic.

After Monday’s rest day, the the next three stages are in the mountains. The last competitive day is a 22-mile time trial Saturday, finishing with a category-one ascent.

MORE: How Roglic beat Luka Doncic

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U.S. men off to best French Open start in 24 years

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The last time U.S. men started this well at the French Open, Sebastian Korda wasn’t alive and his dad had yet to win a Grand Slam singles title.

Eight American men are into the second round at Roland Garros, the largest contingent in the last 64 since 1996. No nation will have more. Astonishing, given U.S. men went a collective 1-9 at the 2019 French Open.

Back in 1996, nine American men won first-round matches. That group included Pete SamprasAndre AgassiJim Courier and Michael Chang (in Sampras’ deepest run in Paris, to the semifinals).

Clay has long been kryptonite for this generation of Americans — the last U.S. man to make a Roland Garros quarterfinal was Agassi in 2003.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

This group includes veterans like Jack Sock, who swept countryman Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 on Monday. Sock, 28, was once ranked eighth in the world.

He then dropped out of the rankings entirely, missing time due to injury and going 10 months between tour-level match wins. He’s now at No. 310 and preparing to play No. 3 Dominic Thiem in the second round.

Then there’s 35-year-old John Isner, the big server who swept a French wild card in round one. Isner, the highest seeded U.S. man at No. 21, has posted some decent Roland Garros results, reaching the fourth round three times.

There are new faces, too. Taylor Fritz is seeded 27, aged 22 and in an open section of the draw to make his first Grand Slam fourth round.

On Monday, 20-year-old Korda became the youngest U.S. man to win a French Open main-draw match since an 18-year-old Andy Roddick beat Chang in 2001.

An American man is already guaranteed to reach the third round — Korda, the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda and brother of the world’s second-ranked female golfer Nelly Korda, next faces Isner.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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Novak Djokovic rolls at French Open; top women escape

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Novak Djokovic began what could be a march to his 18th Grand Slam title, sweeping Swede Mikael Ymer 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 in the French Open first round on Tuesday.

The top seed Djokovic lost just seven points in the first set. He gets Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis in the second round in a half of the draw that includes no other man with French Open semifinal experience.

Djokovic had plenty going for him into Roland Garros, seeking to repeat his 2016 run to the title. The chilly weather is similar to four years ago.

As is Djokovic’s form. His only loss in 2020 was when he was defaulted at the U.S. Open for hitting a ball in anger that struck a linesperson in the throat.

Djokovic got a break with the draw when No. 3 seed Dominic Thiem was put in No. 2 Rafael Nadal‘s half. The Serbian also won his clay-court tune-up event in Rome, where he received warnings in back-to-back matches for breaking a racket and uttering an obscenity.

“I don’t think that [the linesperson incident] will have any significant negative impact on how I feel on the tennis court,” Djokovic said before Roland Garros. “I mean, I won the tournament in Rome just a week later after what happened in New York.

“I really want to be my best version as a player, as a human being on the court, and win a tennis match. Because of the care that I have for that, I sometimes express my emotions in good way or maybe less good way.”

If Djokovic can lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires two Sundays from now, he will move within two of Roger Federer‘s career Slams record. Also notable: He would keep Nadal from tying Federer’s record and head into the Australian Open in January, his signature Slam, with a chance to match Nadal at 19.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Earlier Tuesday, No. 2 Karolina Pliskova and No. 4 Sofia Kenin each needed three sets to reach the second round.

The Czech Pliskova rallied past Egyptian qualifier Mayar Sherif 6-7 (9), 6-2, 6-4. Pliskova, the highest-ranked player without a major title, next gets 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.

“Let’s not talk about my level [of play],” Pliskova said. “I think there is big room for improvement.”

Kenin, the American who won the Australian Open in February, outlasted Russian Liudmila Samsonova 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

“It doesn’t matter how you win — ugly, pretty, doesn’t matter,” Kenin said on Tennis Channel.

She gets Romanian Ana Bogdan in the second round. Only one other seed — No. 14 Elena Rybakina — is left in Kenin’s section en route to a possible quarterfinal.

American Jen Brady, who made a breakthrough run to the U.S. Open semifinals, was beaten by Danish qualifier Clara Tauson  6-4, 3-6, 9-7.

Sam Querrey nearly made it eight American men into the second round, serving for the match in the third set. But he succumbed to 13th-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev 6-7 (5), 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4, 6-3. It’s still the best first-round showing for U.S. men since nine advanced in 1996.

The second round begins Wednesday, highlighted by Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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